There’s a certain heft to the space used by Broken Harbour on Gramophone Transmissions. The new record by Canada’s Blake Gibson explores the immensity of sound with crashing waves of it, generating an almost magnetic sensibility in the process.
Gramophone Transmissions was recorded between July and October of 2009. Gibson, tired of synthesizers, used row upon row of samples for the making of the album. The samples come from some unique territory, including well-worn vinyl records, chewed-up tapes, mellotron recordings, piano recordings, and so forth. After recording, the results went into a period of gestation that, according to Gibson, was to determine its readiness.
It’s not every day that one comes across an artist so dedicated to his craft that he doesn’t release something, but such is the nature of Broken Harbour. His self-titled debut came as a creation of form, one of silence, space and patience.
Gramophone Transmissions, too, is a record of fortitude, but it’s also weightier stuff. The lack of synthetic sources makes the construction of sound a different beast entirely, but Gibson still holds to form well.
At just a touch over and hour, the album gets down to business right away. “Drift” is eight minutes that earn its namesake. The crackles and flaws in the transmission create substance, while the gossamer effects and instrumentalism rather recall the cool rise and fall of a sandy pipe organ.
Split into two parts is “The Ballad of Dave Bowman.” The first part is woven gracefully, carrying the nomadic nature of the first track into a piece with somewhat more form. Choral and vocal samples ground it somewhat and the second part is like attending a peculiar church service in space, complete with organ (perhaps dusted off, at long last) and lovely sounds.
As Gramophone Transmissions heads into its second portion, the movements become more ominous. Broken Harbour means business with the aptly-titled “Maelstrom (The Descent),” a piece that thunders with a dense drone/doom crush.
With some lessons learned, Gibson’s Gramophone Transmissions is an expansive and striking work of art. It is apparently the first in a series of “transmissions” from Broken Harbour, so fans of true ambient/drone music would do well to tune in as soon as possible.
You can and should purchase Gramophone Transmissions, complete with beautiful Michal Karcz artwork, here.